The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) recently introduced a type of newly developed assault vehicle-based howitzer, which experts said on Wednesday is more mobile than truck-based howitzers and can operate in challenging, off-road terrains where other types of other artillery cannot.
A lightweight combined arms brigade attached to the PLA 72nd Group Army recently held a live-fire tactical exercise, in which multiple types of recently commissioned weapons and equipment were used, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Tuesday.
One of those weapons is a new howitzer, which seems to have been developed based on a six-wheeled Dongfeng Mengshi off-road assault vehicle. It has a 122-millimeter gun on its roof, according to the CCTV report.
This type of howitzer was commissioned with the troops in the second half of 2020, the report said.
Compared with the towed howitzers previously used by the PLA, this new assault vehicle-based howitzer is more mobile and has stronger capability to surmount obstacles on the battlefield, so it can be deployed on all kinds of complicated terrains, Li Qiuyu, a company commander of the brigade, told CCTV.
"The gun can be calibrated with only one push of a button, and it can also be semi-automatically reloaded. This can greatly reduce the number of operators needed and shorten the preparation time for firing," Li said.
It can rapidly switch from driving mode to shooting mode, and provide key combat advantages on the battlefield, CCTV said.
The CCTV report did not reveal the howitzer's designation. Passion News, a media outlet under k618.cn, a news portal run by the Communist Youth League of China Central Committee, identified it as the PCL-171 in a Wednesday report.
The PCL-181 155-millimeter truck-based howitzer made its public debut at China's National Day military parade in 2019, and a similar truck-based howitzer, but with a 122-millimeter caliber and rumored to be designated the PCL-161, was spotted in an August CCTV report covering live-fire drills in a high-elevation region in the Himalayas.
The new howitzer likely uses similar technologies to these two truck-based howitzers, a military expert who asked for anonymity told the Global Times on Wednesday.
Compared with these two truck-based howitzers, which already have higher mobility than towed howitzers or self-propelled howitzers with caterpillar tracks, the assault vehicle-based one has higher mobility, as it can run off-road and function in challenging terrains where other howitzers cannot, like hills, swamps and even forests, the expert said.
Its light weight means it may be less accurate and less powerful than truck-based howitzers, but that is why both truck-based and assault vehicle-based versions are being developed, as they each have their own strengths and can compensate for one another in different combat conditions, according to the expert.